Patchouli essential oil is obtained by steam distilling the dried leaves and young shoots of the patchouli plant (Pogastemon patchouli or Pogastemon cablin Benth), an aromatic perennial shrub with large green leaves and white to pink flowers. The resulting viscous oil is dark orange to brown in color, with an aroma described as rich, heavy, sweet, herbaceous, spicy, woodsy, balsamic, musky and delicately earthy. The aroma improves as the oil ages.
Patchouli oil’s scent lasts a long time and remains sweet during evaporation. The oil will remain fragrant for several months when dropped onto a piece of fabric or paper. Patchouli blends well with many other oils including lavender essential oil, sandalwood essential oil and frankincense essential oil. It’s often used in aromatherapy or as a perfume, or in combination with other earthy oils in a variety of skincare and cosmetic products.
History and Folklore
Commonly known as the “hippie” essential oil, made famous in the United States by the hippie counterculture in the 1960s and 1970s, patchouli essential oil has a history much older than this. Although it’s unclear when the oil was first used, the patchouli plant was described by botanists in the Philippines in the late 1800s. It soon made its way to Europe, where it was commonly used as a moth repellent and cosmetic fragrance. Many goods imported from Asia, the patchouli plant’s native home, were packed in patchouli leaves to prevent moth damage, and manufacturers in London soon began using the plant to scent their own expensive goods.
Soon after the arrival of the patchouli plant in Europe, the powerful essential oil became a highly valued ingredient in the production of fine perfumes and cosmetic products. The increased demand of patchouli essential oil helped create a patchouli farming and distillation industry in tropical areas of Asia that still persists today. It is widely used in natural remedies, cosmetic products and aromatherapy.
Modern Medicinal Uses
The modern medicinal uses for patchouli oil include treating inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis, alleviating dandruff, reducing varicose veins and treating painful hemorrhoids. It is believed to have anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties, which are most likely responsible for the oil’s healing qualities. In China, Japan and areas of Malaysia, patchouli essential oil is used to treat colds, headaches, diarrhea, vomiting and halitosis, and as an antidote for snakebites.
In aromatherapy, patchouli oil is sometimes used for massaging sore, tired muscles, or in fragrant baths. It is also believed to have aphrodisiac qualities, although only anecdotal evidence exists to prove the oil’s effectiveness for this purpose. However, many herbalists recommend adding a few drops of the oil to your bathwater or inhaling the oil to increase sexual desire.
Patchouli essential oil benefits oily and mature skin the most, and it is a prized ingredient in many natural skincare products. It helps regenerate healthy new skin cells, and is sometimes used as a wrinkle treatment or natural acne scar treatment – particularly when blended with wheat germ oil. In cosmetics, patchouli oil is often employed as a fixative, or substance that prevents rapid evaporation of other ingredients. It is widely used in soaps, hand and body lotions, after shave formulas, wrinkle creams, massage oils, bath and body oils, and of course, perfumes. Many people use the oil alone as a simple fragrance; however, a little of the oil goes a very long way, and it can be easy to over-do it.
Emotional and psychological patchouli essential oil properties include soothing and stabilizing the mood, reducing stress and alleviating anxiety and depression. It is believed to help those who are overly intellectual to get in touch with their more sensual, earthy nature. Patchouli oil also grounds those who are prone to get lost in daydreams, and helps calm the thoughts during meditations. In general, the oil helps center the mind, body and spirit. In low doses, patchouli can be sedative, and it also helps promote relaxation. The oil is also used to make relaxing candles and incense.
Patchouli essential oil has a variety of uses, the simplest of which consists of placing 1 to 2 drops on a clean cotton ball and inhaling the earthy scent. This can help calm your nerves, still your mind and reduce stress in trying times. Other suggested uses of patchouli oil include:
- For wrinkles or mature skin, add 1 to 2 drops patchouli essential oil to 2 tbsp. of your favorite cold cream (preferably unscented) and massage into your skin each night before bed. The oil helps regenerate new skin, which improves the appearance of wrinkled and mature skin.
- For oily skin, combine 1 to 2 drops patchouli essential oil with 2 tbsp. cold water (or 1 tbsp. cold water and 1 tbsp. lemon juice). Splash the mixture over your face once or twice daily after washing with a gentle cleanser. Follow with a light moisturizer.
- For a soothing bath, add 10 drops patchouli essential oil into a tub full of warm water and soak for at least 20 minutes. This also works well for baths of a sensual nature.
- For an earthy perfume oil, combine 5 drops patchouli oil with 2 oz. carrier oil such as sweet almond or olive oil, and dab onto your neck and wrists. You can also dab patchouli oil directly onto your skin, if desired, but remember the scent is very strong and long-lasting.
- For repelling moths, drop 1 to 2 drops of patchouli essential oil on a small fabric scrap and place in drawers, chests or storage containers with clothing. This works well to keep moths away while storing clothing through the winter, and it also gives your clothes a nice scent. Refresh the fabric scrap once a month for the best results.
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